The Saint Peter Dossier: Fr. Joseph Poisson Gives RadTrad Thomist an Exclusive Interview Detailing his Years as a Fraternity of Saint Peter Priest. Part I: When the Smoke Cleared.
Written transcript of Interview with Fr. Joseph Poisson, formerly of the FSSP, given to RadTrad Thomist in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on January 5, 2019.
RadTrad Thomist has sat down with Fr. Joseph Poisson, former priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter, to give an exclusive interview concerning the inner workings of Ecclesia Dei’s Fraternity of St. Peter. What you don’t know about this organization WILL hurt you!
RadTrad Thomist: Father, I would like to start out with your story. Can you tell us who you are and how you became a priest and how you got involved with the Fraternity of St. Peter?
Fr. Poisson: I was always Novus Ordo. I come from Ontario. We lived way out on a dairy farm. The closest Latin Mass was in Ottawa. Because it was an international situation [being the capital of Canada] they have never let go of the Latin Mass. They always had the privilege of the Latin Mass. That is how the Fraternity started there, because of the commitment to keep it going. We were 85 to 100 miles from the place. Other than that, it was all Novus Ordo around us.
Well, I guess it started with the spiritual life. It started with me being more closer to God. We always had the rosary at home, but I must admit that when I went to college and university —- I took a two year agricultural diploma and then 5 years of computer science and mathematics at the University of Waterloo in Southern Ontario. Then I worked two years at an atomic energy plant, about 45 miles from home. I was running the dairy farm at the same time. My dad married when he was older, he was 36 and my mom was 20, mom was Polish and my dad was French so they spoke English at home. He had heart problems too, and I remember my prayer to God that I be able to finish my education before he died, because I was the oldest of 6. I was the oldest boy. There was one younger brother and 4 sisters. And sure enough, 8 days after my last exam he died in the hospital right after Mass. I was there with my mom.
RadTrad: So how old were you at this point?
P: I was about 25 and after 2 years working I joined the seminary at 27, so I was a later start. Which was good because I was more mature, especially as compared with the French, they were still young and giddy. So I think it was the “Two Divine Promises” that started me going to daily Mass. I made that commitment. It was probably around 1986, I joined the seminary in 1990, so for 4 years I was always going to daily Mass. As you know it was Novus Ordo. I read the “Divine Promises.” My mom was getting a good library at home. She made a conversion too, getting more Catholic books from TAN. I did this quietly because I did not want to seem too “religious.”
R: Yes, TAN Books are wonderful to help move people towards Tradition.
P: Yes, so that help me a lot with my vocation. That commitment, I knew what work was, being on a dairy farm. One of my sins is not laziness! So I must stress that. God was preparing me for the priesthood, because I would be one of the first Fraternity priests to start Masses and do a lot of sacrifices, which you don’t do now, to get the Mass started in many places, organizing your things to get things done. This was a part of me long before I joined Fr. [Joseph] Pfeiffer.
R: So you were primarily operative in Canada?
P: I was all over. I was in Omaha for 9 months, and during that Omaha stay I would drive to Lincoln to say Mass at a hospital and then finally got to a church and a couple times before I left Omaha I was driving 3 hours a night to say a Mass. I don’t remember exactly where, perhaps in South Dakota. It was 3 hours from Omaha. I said a 9PM Mass and driving back that night, getting back to say the Sunday Morning Mass. And then going to Saint Catherine’s [in Ontario] for 4 years after that, to start up the first Fraternity parish there. That is near Niagara Falls. I tried to live with a Novus Ordo priest there, with all the complications, to get things to what they should be. But there are good things that came out of there, I had to ask permission from the pastor to do things, [but] we had Wednesday Night adoration, Fatima processions for the six months, so we got good things going there. We had things going on other than the Latin Mass. And then, all the book work, all the collections. I had to organize all that. Now a days they do not do that, because they have now these “special ministries” so when you walk into the parish that is all done. But all that was part of my blood.
Then from St. Catherine’s I went to Oklahoma City. For 2 1/2 years. Then there was a problem there. The priest before me got in trouble. He was from….Australia or the Philippines…. I forget exactly where he was from, but he joined the Fraternity. He was put in the seminary and then got this place in Oklahoma City and then he made the mistake of getting involved with an independent chapel there, so they put him back at the chancery and then at one of his morning Masses at the chancery, the secretary of the Archbishop came to the Mass and she wanted communion in the hand and the priest would not give it to her. So the bishop was infuriated.
R: But she knew that it was a Fraternity Mass?
P: Yes, but the priest knew that it was his death toll. He left the priesthood after that. I cannot think of his name right now. So that was another crisis. After that it was back to headquarters [for me]. It is in Pennsylvania. In Elmhurst. I started the first Fraternity Mass in Harrisburg. I found the famous chapel of St. Lawrence. The problem was that the cathedral was down the street and they would have their music concerts there. After one of the concerts in the chapel, I came to find out that a lady from the cathedral had come to put the Blessed Sacrament in a safe during the concert and then put it back into the tabernacle after the concert. After that, I got an increase of knowledge of the SSPX because they had the Angelus magazines just sitting there, at headquarters. After reading these, I felt like an SSPX priest in a Fraternity habit.
R: So you identified with what they were saying.
P: They were really hammering the catechism on the heresies. So that was really an eye-opener. When they spoke about faculties and confessions and how the Church supplies. Because when I think of my time when I was considering the priesthood, I was committed to never going to a Novus Ordo seminary. Then I saw an article in Fr. Nicholas Gruner’s Magazine speaking about a traditional seminary in Germany [Fraternity of St. Peter Seminary in Wigratzbad] in 1989.
R So that is what you wanted. The traditional liturgy with no compromise.
P. Yes, I wanted no compromise and I said to myself that I would never say the Novus Ordo Mass. Even if I had to say Mass alone for the rest of my life, I was that committed. I did not care about people showing up or how big the parish was.
R. You knew that there was something wrong with the Novus Ordo.
P. Oh, yea. Any ways, the first experience I had with the traditional Mass was when a priest showed me the black and white video of a traditional Mass with Bishop Sheen. When I saw this I said to myself, “Wait, our Mass [i.e., the Novus Ordo] is watered down.” I had never seen this before. That was an eye-opener. Now these old books that I was reading made sense. They are talking about the Mass and not what I was going to. It made a lot of sense. So that really opened my eyes and opened my way to join the Fraternity.
R. So when you got to the Seminary in Wigratzbad  was it what you expected?
P. Yes and no. First of all, I had never had any exposure to the SSPX. I did not know about it until I went to the seminary and I heard others talk about it and about Archbishop Lefebvre. But I was so focused on my vocation. I wanted to do everything right, I did not want to break the rules. I had to make sure the other seminarians were following the rules. Adhering to “Grand Silence,” etc. So I was just focused on doing my job. And, of course, the language problem. Learning German. It was a very great cross to carry. I had studied French in high school, and I got very good at it, but you are still not bi-lingual. I studied the German language before I took the flight over to the seminary. It was all providential because the Germans are so friendly, whereas the French are so….
P. The Germans would give me the questions in English, so I could take the tests In English. So it was really providential that I went to Germany.
R. So what were some of your experiences in the seminary? Some that may have shown you that there was some problem or it was not what you expected.
P. So many things would be put in my memory. But many of these things I only put together after I left the Fraternity and even after that, the answers to my questions were still not clear until about 4 years after I left the Fraternity, being home with my mom on the dairy farm. No internet, no nothing. But she had books that actually solved the questions. She had outside sources, like materials from the SSPX and the Fatima Crusader and material about Archbishop Lefebvre. Books from lawyers who were saying that there was no real excommunication [for the consecrations of 1988]. People would say that these are SSPX lawyers. No, these are people from outside the community who are saying these things. So that added up. Also, books by Fr. Malachi Martin, they opened up my mind. Saying that some of the sacraments are doubtful. So I was hearing from another source what the SSPX was saying, what Archbishop Lefebvre was saying. This opened my eyes and put things together. And even, with regard to 2012, there was a change with regard to how Bishop Fellay was saying things. Twisting things, already before that. I realized that there was a change. So I was saying to myself, this was true, under Archbishop Lefebvre but then things happened. So I had to take time to understand that. That transition.
R. Did the other priests of the Fraternity see what you were going through?
P. No. So I was ostracized because I wanted to be a holy priest and preach the truth, so I would be hammered by either fellow priests or laypeople and then I would get in trouble. Preaching against immodesty in dress, cremation, and speaking about the proper observance of the Lord’s Day. People would say that, “You are too strict.” But they were precepts in the old books. I got threatened with suspension, because I refused communion to these two girls who on Assumption Day, at a night Mass, they were just “fulfilling their obligation” but even though there was a Novus Ordo church down the street they came in their shorts and their spaghetti straps and I said [to myself] “No thank you” and I denied them communion.
R. So you got in trouble for that.
P. Yes, I got threatened with suspension if I did it again.
R. How did your colleagues in the Fraternity respond to that?
P. They would never support the priest if the bishop said something. If there was a complaint by the diocese, the rule was to hammer the priest. And even the faithful would condemn the priest as guilty.
R. So they wanted you to be Novus Ordo even though you were a Fraternity priest.
P. Yes, all they wanted is to have no problems with the bishop.
Many more revelations from Fr. Poisson to come. Stay tuned.